When voters went to the polls in the town of San Nicolas in President Ferdinand Marcos' home province of Ilocos Norte, they showed a remarkable unanimity of views, according to unofficial returns.
Marcos got 13,643 votes in the presidential election yesterday. His opponent, Corazon Aquino, got none.
The opposition did not expect to win in Ilocos Norte, but the shutout fell into an election category known here as "statistical improbability," in the view of Aquino supporters.
"Even the Unido people voted for Marcos," Aquino's brother-in-law, Agapito Aquino, said sarcastically. He referred to local organizers of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization, the party of Aquino and her running mate, Salvador Laurel.
According to the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, an independent poll-watching group known as Namfrel, many San Nicolas residents claimed to have voted for the opposition candidate. However, a Namfrel volunteer reported, the town's mayor took the ballot boxes to the municipal hall, locked the doors and posted guards while fake ballots were being prepared.
In the nearby town of Piddig, Namfrel said, Namfrel volunteers were served warrants of arrest when the counting of ballots got under way. While they were being interrogated at the local police station, the counting continued, Namfrel said.
Philippine elections have become known for this sort of thing over the years. But this time the "anomalies," as they are called here, have attracted unusual attention. A delegation of U.S. congressional observers, led by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), has expressed concern at what Lugar said today were "regrettable" efforts of Marcos' ruling party to "manipulate" the vote count.
"With all due respect, it's obvious he's applying American election standards to a totally alien environment," said a presidential adviser and ambassador to London, J.V. Cruz. "Philippine elections should be judged by Philippine election standards. What might strike sophisticated American voters as despicable dirty tricks are taken for granted as part and parcel of our electoral process."
Asked about a major complaint of the U.S. observers, that many voters were effectively disenfranchised because their names were not on voters' lists at their precincts, Cruz said, "If you can confuse the enemy, that's part of the game." He added, "Maybe we got a bad political education from the Americans."
The United States, this country's former colonial patron, bequeathed an educational and political system aimed at making the Philippines the "showcase of democracy in Asia." However, many of the country's politicians seem to have been more inspired by the examples of New York's Tammany Hall and the late mayor Richard J. Daley's Chicago.
In Manila's business district of Makati, one woman voter who said she had lived for 30 years at the same address complained to reporters yesterday that she could not find her name on her precinct's list of voters and therefore was barred from voting. She did find her address listed, however, and three persons she had never heard of were registered as living there. She said she had intended to vote for Aquino.
Among the estimated hundreds of thousands of voters similarly prevented from casting their ballots in Manila yesterday was Jaime Ongpin, a close adviser of opposition candidate Aquino.
In addition, considerable violence was reported in Makati and around the country yesterday and today as Namfrel and opposition poll-watchers were kicked out of precincts, voters were intimidated, ballot boxes were snatched and various other "anomalies" were reported.
In an area beset by election violence, Aquino's hometown of Concepcion in Tarlac Province, a dozen men carrying M16 rifles arrived at the barrio of Balutu yesterday in jeeps bearing Marcos stickers, witnesses said. The armed men approached the schoolrooms where the ballot boxes were kept, but they retreated when they encountered western reporters. The men then drove on to another barrio, San Antonio, forced everyone out of the precincts, including an Irish priest, and seized the ballot boxes, journalists reported.
At Balutu, worried Unido organizers including a local opposition leader, Jose Feliciano, then decided to walk the ballot boxes the five miles into Concepcion proper to safeguard the votes, witnesses said. Feliciano and 31 followers were arrested later on charges of snatching the ballot boxes.
President Marcos mentioned the case in a news conference today, noting that Feliciano is "now charged with this crime and is in jail." Marcos used the case to illustrate his contention that "if there has been any ballot-box snatching, I think it would be more on the side of the opposition and Namfrel."
In the San Antonio barrio where the armed men were more successful, Marcos ended up beating Aquino, 184 votes to 0 and 183 to 0, in two precincts. Strangely, however, residents of the same barrio were interviewed as they turned out in force for an opposition rally last month, and many indicated then that they were voting for Aquino.